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What I Wish I Had Known Before Self Publishing

Self-publishing is not an easy route to take. It took me six years or so to decide to self-publish. I did a lot of research before taking this route. I had looked into five or six different publishers before making my decision. Sometimes it does take years to figure out the publishing journey that’s best for you. In my journey, I learned a lot along my way. I’ve been self-published for just over a year, with three books. A few things I’ve discovered aren't as easy as I thought are marketing, editors, and timing.

One of the biggest lessons I learned during my journey of self-publishing is marketing and how to market your novel. Especially when it comes to your debut novel. Marketing looks different for everyone. I’ve learned to not share many snippets (one of the biggest mistakes I made for my debut) and also to keep people interested is to postpone revealing titles, covers, and blurbs. Everyone markets differently. I personally do a weekly countdown beginning two months before release and then every day the last week. Some other things I’ve seen is putting your number of pages and having others give you a page number and you share a small snippet. In the end it comes down to what marketing will work for you.

It can be difficult to find the right beta readers and the right editor. Another mistake I made with my first book. I didn’t have the best beta readers — chose some of my close friends instead of really trying to find people. I had way more success with betas with my last two books. The trick that I found with beta readers is to have both writers and readers. The difference between beta readers and editors is that editors are helping you have a more polished manuscript and beta readers are looking at a more polished plotline. When it comes to editors, make sure you find one that fits your genre. My first editor wrote a completely different genre than I did so they didn’t do as great of a job. I changed editors for my last two novels and it’s worked out great.

Another matter to consider is timing. There’s no reason to rush into publishing. Part of me feels as though I did for my first book. When you finish your first book — or any book — you want to publish as soon as you can. I’d say wait a bit. Let the book marinate in your mind as you edit and find beta readers and an editor. It’s okay to take your time when it comes to publishing, especially self-publishing. I found that if you jump into it, the novel doesn’t come out as clean as you would like.

One of my favorite things about self-publishing is that there’s no hard deadlines. As an indie author, I set my own deadlines, but if I don’t make them that’s okay. If you work better on deadlines, set by others, then self-publishing isn’t for you. Personally, I enjoy self-set deadlines. Sometimes I push myself and other times I let myself be more laid back. The only hardset deadline you have as a self-published author is when you set the release date.

Supporters are amazing to have. I feel as though you should have that one person, or two people, that you can bounce ideas off of. You can do this without revealing too much. It took me about seven years to find people to bounce ideas off of. They’ve helped me solve problems and gotten me through writer’s block. It’s amazing what minds, outside of your own, can do for a story that they don’t know. Sometimes I have too much fun bouncing ideas off someone that, on occasion, I come up with a brand new novel idea. Essentially, be careful when bouncing ideas.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking of self-publishing is to do research. Research if self-publishing is right, and if so, which way you want to. Personally I chose to go through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, but that may not work for everyone. It depends on your needs and wants when it comes to your novel.

Take your time with this process. Consider if you want to design your own cover, or hire someone else. Do you want to format yourself or have someone else? It’s important to make the right decision in the end for your novel. I can’t emphasize this enough about not rushing the publication of your manuscript. When you try and speed the process along, the novel doesn’t feel finished.

Many things can make or break a debut self-publishing. Marketing being at the top of the list. If you can figure out marketing, you can just about figure out anything. With no hardset deadlines, means that you don’t have to rush the process. A couple things that can help make your novel better, especially when it comes to self-publishing, is finding the right beta readers — I recommend two to five and a combination of readers and writers — and finding the editor that will best fit your novel and help you move forward towards your goals.

Meet Vivian Rolfe

Vivian Rolfe is a college student studying Sociology and spends her spare time writing. She has self-published three books in her debut series, SHAPESHIFTERS, and they are available on Amazon. You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter and visit her website

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1 Comment

This is a great article, thank you. I'm just about to start querying my debut novel but have done a lot of reading in respect of self-publishing and haven't completely ruled it out. As someone who has shared a lot of snippets on IG, I would like to know more about why this was one of your biggest mistakes with your debut 😬

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